Stone Brewing CEO Maria Stipp admitted on Thursday in court that she sees problems for her company to meet the due date in June 2023 to pay back USD 464 million to investment firm VMG/Hillhouse and she even considered selling the company. The questioning was part of a hearing in a court case brought by Stone Brewing alleging MolsonCoors trademark infringement.
Like many other craft breweries in the United States, Stone Brewing experienced dwindling sales during the pandemic. In addition, Stone Brewing’s flagship beer Stone IPA saw a nosedive in sales since MillerCoors, as the company was called at that time,rebrandedits economy beer brand Keystone Light in April 2017 and emphasized the word "Stone" on the label, thus overtly copying the Stone trademark. Since MillerCoors was not willing to settle the case amicably Stone took the second biggest US-brewer to court for trademark infringement and unfair competition. (inside.beer, 12.2.2018)
Last week, after more than 4 years, the case of Stone Brewing v. Molson Coors finally went to trial. In an opening statement, Stone Brewing said its sales have decreased 20%, or USD 174 million in the five years since Keystone rebranded. Year-to-date sales are down another 6%.
“I have not to my knowledge seen any brewery experience such extreme losses,” Stipp said at court on Thursday. “We tried price, a marketing campaign, incentives — everything we could think of to do to change from negative to positive and it’s not making a difference,” Stipp said, adding: “I’m frankly not sure what else we can do.”
When asked by Stone Brewing attorney Jeffrey Theodore if MillerCoors’ infringement forced her to consider certain options including selling the company, Maria Stipp answered “Yes”.
The trial is scheduled to continue Friday.